Four Tips For Writing Cyberpunk Fiction Quickly

2017-artwork-write-cyberpunk-quickly

Well, although I talked about how to write very short (eg: 500-1200 words) cyberpunk fiction yesterday, I thought that I’d take a brief look at how to write this type of cyberpunk fiction quickly.

So, here are a few tips for writing quickly and/or coming up with story ideas.

1) Find an inspiration: One of the easiest ways to write a story is if that story is inspired by something. But, since you can’t directly copy anything else, then it may be worth searching for a general type of media (or, better, two of them), a general narrative style or a theme that you can loosely base your cyberpunk story on. Remember, you are only using this as a jumping off point for your own ideas – you shouldn’t directly copy things from other stories, films etc…

For example, this short story of mine is inspired by both horror games and old 1980s horror comedy films. Likewise, this short story is inspired by shows about computer games (both modern ones from Youtube and old ones from TV).

Neither of these stories copies any one specific thing but, by finding an inspiration, I was able to come up with ideas significantly quicker.

2) Shared universe:
One easy way to write cyberpunk stories quickly is to set multiple stories in the same fictional universe. Yes, ideally, each story should work as a stand-alone piece too but, if you need to produce a lot of cyberpunk stories in a relatively short amount of time (eg: 1-2 weeks), then having a shared universe can cut down the amount of thinking time required for each story.

The only problem here is that you’ve got to be careful not to contradict yourself too much. For example, in the story I linked to earlier, I had to include a brief line about “pre-load permission” (yes, it was something I made up on the spot) for the simple reason that the rest of the story contradicted some parts of the previous story which implied that the city the stories are set in only had limited internet bandwidth due to one site hogging most of the internet.

But, if contradicting yourself or slightly breaking the “rules” of your fictional “world” allows you to actually write a story, then that comes first. It is, after all, artistic licence.

3) Variety: One of the best ways to write a collection of cyberpunk stories relatively quickly is, whilst keeping them within the same fictional “world”, to alter the genre of each story depending on what you feel inspired to write at the moment.

I wrote about this in more detail a few days ago, but the easiest way to add stuff from other genres to the cyberpunk genre is just to show your characters using a virtual reality program that just happens to include the genre that you’re writing in.

For example, this short story was written when I felt like writing something about the fantasy genre. Yes, it ended up turning into satire, but I was able to include fantasy elements in it quickly and easily by having the characters be avid gamers who play a lot of virtual reality fantasy games.

4) Perspective: Some people write faster when using a third-person perspective and some people (like me) write faster when using a first-person perspective. Just choose the perspective that works best for you and use it in your story or stories.

If you don’t know which perspective works best for you, then it’s probably best to go for the first-person perspective. The main advantage of this is that you can use a nameless/generic narrator (which can save you time thinking of a detailed main character). Likewise, by only telling your story from the perspective of one character, it forces you to focus on the important events of the story too.

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Anyway, I hope this was useful 🙂

Three Ways To Make Political Cartoons Quickly

2017-artwork-make-political-cartoons-quickly

Well, it’s been a while since I last wrote about political cartoons, so I thought that I’d talk quickly about how you can make a political cartoon in a relatively short period of time. After all, political cartoons are topical, reactive things with a relatively short “shelf life”. So, they need to be made and posted online quickly.

1) Motivation (and research!): I’ve talked about this before, but (unless you are a professional political cartoonist) you should only make political cartoons when the idea of not making a political cartoon feels wrong.

In other words, only make them during moments of strong emotion. Make them during times when you feel like a political cartoon is the only way to make yourself heard or to laugh at a dismal political situation (that would otherwise depress you).

If you make them during these moments, then you’re going to be motivated to make them quickly. Just make sure that you’ve done some research about political cartoons beforehand (in other words, try to read political cartoons on at least a semi-regular basis). Strong emotion might motivate you to make a cartoon, but it won’t help you to make a good one. If you don’t know what you’re doing, then – at best – your cartoon will seem trite or preachy. And, at worst, it might overstep the reasonable limits of political speech.

In general, a good rule to remember is that your comic should include some degree of humour and/or surrealism. For example, here’s a cartoon I made the day that Donald Trump was elected as the American president. It’s dark and pessimistic, but I tried to include at least a bit of surreal humour to lighten the tone:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Editorial Cartoon - Optimism" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Editorial Cartoon – Optimism” By C. A. Brown

2) Choose a fast medium: Since you’ll be making your comic quickly (possibly with relatively little planning time), you need to choose an art medium that you can work in quickly and which can be edited easily.

If you’re more used to making digital art, then this would be perfect. But, since I use a mixture of traditional and digital mediums, my go-to medium for political cartoons is either a black and white drawing (using black watercolour paint to fill in large areas) or a greyscale drawing. This uses a similar set of skills to the ones I use for my daily paintings, albeit without having to worry about things like colour schemes etc..

Since the pictures only include 1-3 colours (eg: black, white and/or grey), then editing them digitally is also significantly quicker and easier than editing full-colour artwork too. Plus, on top of all of this, it also lends the cartoons a certain gravitas too. Even when they’re silly cartoons about silly politicians:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "BORIS Is The New FOREIGN SECRETARY!?!?! WTF?" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “BORIS Is The New FOREIGN SECRETARY!?!?! WTF?” By C. A. Brown

In addition to this, I often use a very similar format/ panel layout to the one that I use when making webcomics. Since I’m used to working in this format, it means that I can crank out a political cartoon more quickly than I could if I had to work out a new panel layout before I started planning the actual cartoon.

3) If you can’t draw the politician: Some politicians are easy to draw, some aren’t. There’s no real logic to this, and it varies from artist to artist. If you’re not sure if yout know how to draw a politician, then you could spend a while looking at photos of them, making studies and trying to work out how to turn those studies into cartoons. But, even this might not help you to draw a politician (former Prime Minister David Cameron was one politician that I just couldn’t seem to draw well).

So, if you don’t know if you know how to draw a politician, but you need to make a cartoon quickly, then find a way to make the cartoon without actually drawing them. There are lots of sneaky ways to do this – you can show other people talking about them, you can show them standing with their back to the audience etc….

But, if it comes down to either not drawing a politician, or drawing them really badly, then don’t draw them.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Four Tips For Making A Comic In Just Two Days

2016 Artwork making comics quickly article sketch

Although this article is intended to help you make comics more quickly, I’m going to have to talk about “The Charity Case: A Harvey Delford Mystery” again for the simple fact that I made an eight page (including the cover) comic in just two days. As such, it’s taught me quite a bit about making comics quickly.

As a project it was exhausting, but fun. So, how did I do it? And, more importantly, how can you do something similar?

1) Plan it first: I know that I already mentioned this a couple of days ago, but one thing that really helped to speed this comic up was the fact that I planned the whole thing (or most of it anyway) out in advance before I started.

If you plan out your comic in advance, rather than making it up as you go along then all you have to focus on when actually making the comic is on drawing all of the art and copying the dialogue from your plans.

In other words, you don’t have to worry about what will be in the next panel because you can just look at your plan. Seriously, you’d be surprised at how much this can speed up making a comic.

2) Make it over a weekend and know your limits:
This one is pretty obvious, but it’s probably worth mentioning. If you make a comic in just two days, then you’re probably going to have to devote several hours a day to it at the very least. So, make it over a weekend or on two empty days.

Personally, I find it best to make “quick” projects in one continuous session (eg: two consecutive days). But if you find it easier to pick things up and put them down, then the two days you spend on your comic don’t have to be consecutive.

3) Make it in black & white: Yes, learning how to draw well using just black and white can take a bit of time to learn, but once you know how to do this well – then it will speed up your comic immensely, as well as making your comic look a lot cooler and more atmospheric too.

Making your comic in black & white speeds things up since the only thing you really have to pay attention to is the balance between light, dark and shaded areas on each page (rather than trying to work out a good colour scheme for each panel).

Plus, although you can use black paint to fill in large dark areas, making a comic in black & white means that you only have to draw, rather than draw and paint (or draw and colour with pencils). So, making your comic in black & white removes one time-consuming step from the creative process.

4) Backgrounds: One thing that can really slow a comic down is having to draw detailed backgrounds for each panel. So, try to get away with as little as possible when it comes to adding the backgrounds. In other words, the focus of your quick comic should be on the dialogue, characters and story rather than on the locations.

To give you an example, just take a look at this page from “The Charity Case”:

"The Charity Case - Page 2" By C. A. Brown

“The Charity Case – Page 2” By C. A. Brown

As you can see, most of the panels just use a plain black background. The third panel contains a set of blinds in the background, to establish the fact that this scene takes place in an office – but, apart from that, I got away without having to include any real backgrounds in this page.

If you need to learn how to make minimalist background work well, then just take a look at a few classic syndicated newspaper comic strips like “Garfield” and “Dilbert” for plenty of examples of how to set the scene with little to no actual background detail. Since the creators of these syndicated comics had to make one strip per day, they didn’t have time to include detailed backgrounds. And, if you’re making a comic in two days, neither do you.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Some Thoughts On Learning How To Type Quickly

2015 Animation Typing Quickly article sketch

Before I begin, I should probably point out that I’m (sort of) a self-trained typist. So, if you’re looking for advice about traditional touch typing techniques here, then you’ve come to the wrong place.

In fact, I don’t even know how many words per minute I can type – only that I can type about as quickly as I can write by hand and that’s all I really need to know. That is, coincidentally, what I’m going to be talking about today. Even though most of this article will be about my own experiences with learning how to type quickly, I’ll also include some (fairly obvious) advice at the end of this article.

Anyway, when I was a lot younger, my parents got a free demo of a touch typing tuition program (one of the Mavis Beacon ones, I think… wow, I didn’t realise that Mavis Beacon was a fictional character though) on a computer magazine cover disc and I tried it out a few times.

This CD contained a lot of rather traditional advice about typing, such as where to rest your fingers on the keyboard, what the “home row” is etc…. but, to my hyperactive younger self, it was kind of dull and I didn’t really learn that much from it.

Whilst I obviously knew how to use a keyboard back then, it sometimes took me a while to find the right letter when I was typing. In short, it was just quicker and easier to write things by hand. In fact, I don’t think that I really began to get good at typing until my very early twenties.

This might be a generational thing, but since I went to school in the 1990s and early-mid 00s, computers in schools were still a little bit of a novelty (even though I studied ICT at secondary school and also played computer games at home quite a bit) and I got very good at writing things by hand instead.

Yes, my handwriting was (and is) barely legible and fairly small, but – damn– can I write quickly. I absolutely love writing things by hand. Reports that handwriting is a dying art in these soulless days of smartphones and tablets is depressing news indeed.

Even when I was studying creative writing at university, I’d usually write out my stories by hand in a notebook and then type them up afterwards. Not only did this mean that I could edit my stories when I was typing them, but it also meant that I could handwrite my first draft at pretty much the same speed that I was thinking of the story. Plus, I had an instant backup copy of my story too. Likewise, old-fashioned notebooks are far more portable, reliable and useful than even the most advanced tablets and smartphones when it comes to writing stuff.

Yes, I’d had enough experience with typing by then to be able to type at a moderate speed but my typing wasn’t quite up to the speed that I needed for writing fiction. Writing fiction by hand was the fun part and typing it up was the slow, arduous chore that I had to do afterwards.

The first time that I wrote a story using nothing more than a computer happened when I was twenty. I’d heard of a competition called the “3 Day Novel” and I wanted to see if I could do something similar.

So, since I had a few free days, I wrote a novella – but, since I wanted to print out copies afterwards and to know the precise number of words I’d written each day, I decided to type it directly. A few months later, I tried again and wrote another novella. After these gruelling experiences, I still sometimes wrote short stories out by hand, but I was a lot less wary about typing things.

In many ways, it possibly wasn’t even until I started this blog in 2013 that I became entirely comfortable with the idea of typing things without handwriting them first. Making the commitment to writing a 400-1000 word article almost every day meant that I didn’t have time to write things out by hand first. I had a daily deadline and I needed to use my time efficiently. So, I typed everything. I typed 400-1000 words almost every day and, slowly, typing became more and more intuitive.

What I’m trying to say here is that there’s no “magic bullet” when it comes to learning how to type quickly. Often, the best way to learn how to type quickly is just to get well-acquainted with your keyboard through lots of regular practice.

Start slowly and, gradually, you’ll get faster. Likewise, if you challenge yourself to type things within a set amount of time or to a deadline, then – although it’ll be difficult at first – you’ll gradually get better at it.

Plus, don’t be afraid if you still have to look at the keyboard when you’re typing. Although I sometimes still do this occasionally when I’m typing, a couple of years of regular typing practice have meant that my attention is divided equally between looking at the screen and looking at the keyboard whilst I’m typing and – although I can type quickly without looking at the keyboard (through sheer muscle memory and repetitive practice), it’s not always quite as accurate as it is when I’m looking at the keyboard.

No doubt that this will improve with practice, but if you’re just going for sheer typing speed (with a reasonable level of accuracy), then don’t be afraid to look at the keyboard when you’re typing.

Yes, there are formal touch typing techniques that you can learn, which will probably help you to type a lot more quickly and more accurately. But, these aren’t essential. If you just want to learn how to type quickly, then there’s no substitute for practicing regularly.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Four Unusual Tips For Writing A Novel Very Quickly

WARNING - Writing a novel THIS quickly may melt your brain...

WARNING – Writing a novel THIS quickly may melt your brain…

We’ve all heard stories about authors writing at superhuman speed – Jack Kerouac apparently wrote “On The Road” in just three weeks and I think that Shaun Hutson once apparently wrote a World War Two novel in a single weekend or something like that (I can’t remember where I read about this though).

So, how do they do it?

Well, whilst I’ve never actually written a full-length novel at top speed, I’ve done the next best thing. Twice.

Back in 2009, I was fascinated by a competition called “The 3 Day Novel“. Since I’d missed the start date for it and was kind of impatient, I decided to have a bit of unofficial practice and I ended up producing two 19,000-21,000 word novellas (not at the same time obviously – the first one was in summer 2009 and the second one was in autmun 2009).

Although it actually took me about four days for one of my attempts, it gave me at least a small amount of insight into how to write at ultra-fast speeds.

As the name suggests, “The 3 Day Novel” is a competition where people try to write a “novel” in just three days. I’ve put “novel” in inverted commas because what most people (myself included) can produce in that amount of time is closer in length to a novella (eg: 14,000- 50,000 words) than a full-length novel. Still, writing something of this length in three days is quite an achievement.

Anyway, since “The 3 Day Novel” contest already has a ‘Survival Guide’ page on it’s site which gives you some basic advice about how to achieve this superhuman feat (eg: don’t edit when you’re writing, write in solitude etc…), I thought that I’d give you some more unusual tips about how to write a novel quickly…….

1)Begin well: On my first unofficial attempt at the “3 Day Novel” challenge, I was excited and ready to go. So, on the first day, I ended up writing something like 10,000 words in the space of about eight hours. This was, at the time, the longest thing that I’d ever written and I was amazed!

In fact, I thought that if I kept this up then I’d have a 30,000 word novella by the end of the challenge.

I didn’t.

On the other days, I was only able to produce about 5,000 words a day.

Anyway, why am I mentioning this? Well, the reason I’m mentioning it is because you need to take full advantage of the first day of your project.

This will be the day when you are at your most energetic and enthusiastic because you haven’t been worn out by writing an unnaturally large amount of fiction yet. So, don’t take it easy on the first day.

Don’t ease yourself into your project gently. Use that first burst of curiosity and enthusiasm to your advantage and throw yourself into your project whilst you still have the energy to do so.

In other words, see your first day as the day when you can give yourself a giant head-start that will be useful a day or two later when you’re at the point when you can still see words even when you close your eyes.

2) Genre and plot structure: If you are going to pull off the gruelling feat of writing a novel in a shockingly short amount of time, then not only do you need to be enthusiastic (if not obsessed) about it but you also need a plot structure which keeps the risk of getting writer’s block to an absolute minimum.

In order to get enthusiastic about your story, it needs to be in one of your absolute favourite genres. It has to be in a genre that you absolutely love.

Because you’ll be writing at a superhuman speed, you’ll need motivation and the best motivation you can get is to be doing something that you love. So, don’t even attempt to write a novel quickly unless it’s in a genre that you genuinely love.

Secondly, you want to keep your story fairly open-ended in order to keep the risk of both writer’s block and of “writing yourself into a corner” to a minimum.

Whilst I’ve already written another article this subject , your story needs to be something that you can easily “make up as you go along” and it also needs to be the type of story where, if you get stuck, you can just throw something completely random into your story without confusing your readers.

For example, if you’re writing a horror story – then it would be better to write a story about a mysterious monster that attacks unsuspecting people at random (eg: whenever you get writer’s block) or a story about a haunted house where all manner of strange and bizarre things can happen (again, whenever you get writer’s block) than it would be to write an intricately-plotted story with detailed plot twists.

3) Sugar and Caffeine are your friends: Normally, I don’t really like energy drinks. Most of them taste pretty horrible and I don’t really like the whole frat-like culture that surrounds them.

But, if you’re writing a novel at superhuman speed (and it’s safe for you to drink energy drinks), then they’re a much more efficient way to stay awake and motivated than getting up (and away from your computer) and making a cup of coffee.

So, before you start your marathon writing session, make sure that you have some energy drinks handy. But, for obvious safety reasons, just make sure that you don’t drink too many of them though (I think that the general rule is that you should only drink about one can of energy drink per day.)

4) Obsession: If you devote a huge amount of time to doing nothing but writing a novel, then you’re probably going to start to think about it almost all of the time – even when you’re not writing.

On the few occasions that you meet other people during your writing binge, you’re going to want to talk about nothing other than the novel that you’re working on.

Although this might make you fear that you’re losing your mind, it’s actually a good sign. It means that you’re devoting almost all of your mental energy to your novel. As long as you don’t keep it up for more than a few days and you find a way to relax afterwards, then a total and all-consuming obsession about your novel is a good thing.

After all, who would even attempt to write a novel in a ridiculously short amount of time if they weren’t obsessed about it?

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂 Again, be sure to check out the “Survival Guide” on the “3 Day Novel” website for some more practical advice.